Quest for perfection the key to golden glory

Most athletes tend not to worry too much about results in the year immediately after an Olympic Games.

Many are easing themselves back into competition, maybe trying new training or competition techniques, new combinations, new diets.

There are others, though, like Germany’s K2 500 team of Franziska Weber and Tina Dietze. It’s their approach to paddling which maybe gives them the edge over the rest.

“We want to be perfect, and we want to do perfect races all the time,” Weber said.

“But we also know it is not possible all the time, but we work for it every training and every race.”

Last weekend was one of those weekends when it was not possible. It was one of those rare times that the duo actually finished without a medal. And it stung.

On Friday Weber and Dietze had that look in their eyes as they lined up in their heat of the K2 500. It took only 10 metres for other boats in the race to realise the Germans were in no mood to play.

They left the field in their wake, finishing almost four seconds ahead of the next closest boat and qualifying directly for Sunday’s final.

“It was good after a not so good race in Szeged last weekend, we wanted to show we could do it better,” Weber said.

The Germans went within one hundredths of a second of winning back-to-back Olympic gold medals in Rio last year. They’ve watched the replay of that race many times, they’ve analysed, pondered, scrutinised.

But they always came up with the same answer.

“We did everything right,” Weber said.

“We had the perfect race, but the Hungarian girls always had the better finish on their side, and maybe with the K2, a little luck, with the right stroke and the right moment.

“But we are very satisfied by it. We did the perfect race after four years again. Many times we have watched the races of London and Rio. It’s our two races that were perfect.”

Winning silver makes you no less intimidating to your opponents. The Germans know they are feared, even in the year after an Olympics.

Logic tells you they are also the team every other country wants to beat, whether it’s in a heat, a semi or a final. But the Germans try not to think about that.

“I think this is something we don’t want to know,” Weber said.

“We don’t look what others say to us, we only have the things we have in our mind.

“We know we have trained after a long break after Rio, so the pressure for us is not so big, it doesn’t matter for us what others think.”

Dietze said the pair were always going to keep paddling, no matter the result in Rio. Missing the gold by such a small margin has obviously strengthened their resolve, and as both are still the right side of 30, time is with them.

“It’s my dream, it’s our dream, to go in the K2 500 in Tokyo, but it’s a long way, another three years, so we will see. It’s step-by-step,” Dietze said.

“We talk about everything. We dream about winning another gold medal. It was amazing in London, so we want to do it once more, but we also know it is pretty hard.

“The whole field is so close, and every boat can win a medal or a gold medal, so we know we have to do our best, or maybe more than the best to win it.”

Their mantra of striving to find the perfect race means not sugar coating the bad days. And while being brutally honest can test the best of friendships, it seems not to have harmed the relationship between Franziska Weber and Tina Dietze.

“We are very honest to each other,” Weber said.

“We will tell each other if we think the other person did something not so good.

“I think the most important thing is that we are satisfied that we did our best, it doesn’t matter which colour the medal is.”

The ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 3 finishes on Sunday in Belgrade.

Pic by Balint Vekassy

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